On Saving the World
To paraphrase from Days of War, Nights of Love: This blog will not save your life.
Well, obviously. So why did I say it?
This blog will not save the world.
That’s obvious to. As much as I love the stories about the Good Guy riding into town or sweeping in with a primary-color cape and mask and Saving The Day, actually transforming the world on a scope vast enough to be considered “saving” it is not entirely realistic. Not for one person, one blog.
The problems we’re dealing with — I’m thinking mostly the threat of environmental collapse, but that’s hardly the only problem of significance facing humankind today — were not and are not created by one person. And they will not be solved by one person, or one website.
I don’t like hype.
I don’t like fatalism, either.
There is a middle ground, the ground of one person’s worth of difference, or one organization’s worth of difference. There is also the difference of many people coming together for change — as in the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s, for instance.
If this blog reminds one person that they care about the planet, and gets that one person to, I don’t know, start a compost bin in their back yard or switch to a low-flow shower head or go vegetarian or whatever, then this blog will have been worth it. (To the extent that this blog reminds me to be environmentally conscious in my daily life, it’s already worth it.) If this blog causes one person to see the world in a somewhat different way than before, it will have been worth it. If this blog is found by one activist on the verge of burnout and inspires that one person to keep fighting anyway, if this blog turns even one person’s despair to hope, then this blog is worth it. I can always hope that far more than one person will be affected, but one person is still a difference. One person counts.
After all — every molecule of excess human-caused carbon dioxide in the air ultimately got there through the driving or electricity use or whatever of one person. Every tree that gets cut down in the Amazon rainforest to raise cows and every tree that gets cut down in Indonesia for palm oil could, if we had absolute knowledge, be traced back to the hamburgers and supermarket cookies that were, every one of them, each eaten by an individual person. What I’m saying, is the harm that has been caused to the planet is the cumulative impact of individual actions by individual people. (Not individual people working alone, of course; individual people working together.) If individual, mortal, flawed humans caused this impending catastrophe one fast-food meal at a time, we can slow the momentum of the catastrophe in exactly the same way.
It starts with an idea, a story. There are ideas behind the destruction of the planet: the idea that humans are separate from nature, the idea that we should “conquer” it, the ideas that progress is both good and inevitable. The idea that we can and should grow without limits. We got here with ideas; we can get out with different ideas. The idea that the Earth is valuable, not just as a collection of resources, but as it is. The idea that we need to keep the wellbeing of future generations in mind. The idea that growth is limited.
People who believe the idea join together — there is learning to organize effectively, there is finding funding, there is learning to live with and work with people we may not like personally. There is putting organizational goals over personal conflicts. This creates effective organizations, and a movement.
It is a hard process. It won’t happen overnight. It certainly won’t happen from this blog alone — but it doesn’t have to. Because this blog isn’t the only site these ideas are being shared. Because as alone as you might feel right now, there are others who feel the same way, and more of us all the time. I can’t save the world. You can’t save the world. But I can save a piece, and you can save a piece, and when we work together we can save a larger piece. When enough of us are working together for the same goal, each of us doing what we can, we can stop the train that’s driving us all off the cliff edge. It must be possible. After all, we’re the ones who started it.